In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, a growing number of parents are now calling on schools to hire at least one armed guard to patrol corridors and classrooms to minimize the chances of the Newtown tragedy being repeated. Among those supporting this step are the members of the Parent Teacher Organization in a town in South Carolina who took the suggestion to the Anderson County Council earlier this week.
Speaking in front of council members, the organization’s president said that watching the events unfold on the television made her feel helpless and frightened for her own children, scared that nothing has been done to prevent something similar from occurring in their elementary school. That is why she decided to act – which meant applying pressure to the people in charge to put an armed guard in every school in the county.
Carithers, an Anderson County mom with three elementary school children, says part of the answer lies in putting armed officers at every school. She says, “I do feel like there would have been a greater chance if somebody would have been there armed to help and protect those children (in Connecticut).”
While the Anderson County school district does employ school resource officers that are qualified to perform such tasks, there are only 22 of them in the whole county to cover 52 schools. And there are none specifically assigned to elementary schools.
David Draisen, chairman of the Anderson County Board of Education explains that the problem is – as always – funding. Trying to find enough to pay for extra officers would stretch the budget of an already financially strapped district to the breaking point.
However, Draisen was optimistic that other funding sources could soon become available for just such purpose – possibly in the form of grants from the federal government or from fundraising done by parents and school staff themselves.
7 On Your Side calculated the cost to pay for an armed officer in each school in Anderson County, based on figures given to us by the Anderson County Board of Education. The board says the average estimated cost for each school resource officer per school year is $45,000-$50,000, which means the cost to add 30 more officers, putting one in each school, is estimated to be an additional 1.5 million dollars each school year.
Draisen says that taking steps to afford more guards is going to become a high priority for the district second only to instruction.
Meanwhile, advocates aren’t giving up and are increasingly unwilling to hear officials pleading poverty. In Anderson County, parents plan to continue pressing the issue of safety to the school board and to law enforcement agencies in the county.